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CRNA Careers

CRNA Careers

Megan Malugani | Monster.com

January 23, 2012

The poor morale that plagues many overworked and underappreciated RNs isn’t an issue for the 30,000 nurses who practice one of the profession’s most desirable specialties: Nurse anesthesia. Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) – nurses with master’s degrees who administer approximately 65 percent of all anesthetics given to patients each year nationwide, according to American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) data – are highly skilled, highly autonomous, well-paid and in demand.

“It takes a lot of time, energy and effort to become trained in this profession, but it is well worth the commitment,” says Indianapolis-based CRNA Jackie Rowles. “The opportunities are endless, and the satisfaction is very high. People in this profession really love their jobs.”

Nurse anesthetists practice in every setting in which anesthesia is administered, including operating rooms, obstetrical delivery rooms, outpatient surgery centers, and in the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons and other physicians. While nurse anesthetists can administer anesthesia without physician supervision in many states, there is still some public misunderstanding about CRNAs’ scope of practice, Rowles says. “Some people think we just assist the physician,” she explains. “They don’t realize we do the exact same thing as an anesthesiologist.”

Job Flexibility Is Just One Reward

Rowles finds the job’s biggest rewards are the bonds she forms with patients and the ability to quickly relieve their pain. “This is one profession where you can actually work with one patient at a time and give them undivided attention,” she says. “It’s a time when patients are scared or nervous or hurting after an accident, and you can help them and make them feel better almost immediately.”

Another advantage of the job is flexibility. Rowles’s day job is providing pain-management services at an office shared by a group of 18 neurosurgeons, but she also takes OB anesthesia calls at a local hospital. “The beauty of our profession is that there are so many options and schedules available,” she says. “Most nurse anesthetists I know are working more than one place. It’s not for greed, but because there is a need out there.”

Rural Areas See Big Demand

CRNAs are the sole anesthesia providers in approximately two-thirds of all rural hospitals in the country. Wendell Spencer, CRNA, MHS, is a partner in a group of nurse anesthetists that contracts with 12 small hospitals in Nebraska and South Dakota. Spencer spends $600 a month on gasoline traveling between the hospitals, which are located up to 70 miles in all directions from his home. Some days he works 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. On days when he’s on call and doesn’t get any cases, Spencer doesn’t get paid.

“It takes a uniquely dedicated professional to be out here providing services for these patients,” says Spencer, who is the Region 4 director for the AANA. “I love the fact that the patients get to know me on a first-name basis. They count on me and trust me with something pretty sacred, which is the loss of control for them. They trust me to put them to sleep and wake them up.”

Rigorous Education Leads to Healthy Salary

Nurses seeking to apply to one of the more than 100 US nurse-anesthesia programs must have a bachelor’s degree, a nursing license and at least a year’s experience in an acute-care setting. The education is rigorous and competitive, with four to six applicants for every student accepted into a program, Spencer says. The programs last 24 to 36 months and include clinical training in university-based or large community hospitals. Following graduation with a master’s degree, the aspiring nurse anesthetist must pass a national certification exam.

Six-figure salaries await newly minted CRNAs. The mean salary for 2003 graduates was $120,000, according to the AANA’s 2004 Practice Profile Survey. However, most new CRNAs are saddled with student loans of $50,000 to $80,000, Spencer says.

Nurse-anesthesia programs must produce 1,500 to 1,800 new graduates a year to meet the demand for CRNAs expected by 2010, the AANA says. The new blood will be critical, given that the average age of CRNAs is projected to peak at just older than 48 in 2018. “We need some young folks to pick up the slack and carry on,” Spencer says.

Read the original on Monster.com.


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  • John_milks_max50

    jmilks2004

    about 4 years ago

    2436 comments

    very interesting

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Jmorphew

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    "The mean salary for 2003 graduates was $120,000"
    This is the average starting salary, not the average salary for the whole career, which is somewhere around $150,000. Many of the commenters seemed confused by this.
    As for how long it takes to be a CRNA, the minimum time you could do it in is 8 years. 4 for your BSN, 2 years experience, 2 years in a CRNA program.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Mirian

    about 4 years ago

    16 comments

    thanks so much for the information. now, i know what it takes to get there. i'll have to prepare.

  • Banquet_max50

    mayrap07

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    how many years of school is it to finaly become an RN?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    FaleshaGibbs

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Thank you so much for the education you site has provided for me.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    racheldmangine

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    I am starting nursing school in the fall of this year. I am glad to get this ad because now I know what area of nursing i want to go into. thanks!!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    kalamazoo

    over 4 years ago

    6 comments

    Experienced CRNA's do make more than $120000 where I live. Also it depends on the setting where they work plus they can always work extra hours and make extra money. Many contract to numerous facilities or doctors and make a lot more. There is still "flack" from the anesthesiologists as they dont think CRNA's are educated enough. I am a nurse and I can tell you there are some CRNA's and anesthesiologists that are better than others.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    toddo14

    almost 5 years ago

    2 comments

    I know it says that the mean salary in 2003 was about $120,000 but it looks like thats gone up according to this site: http://www.crnasalary.com

    I checked some job postings on some job sites and it also looked like most CRNA jobs pay more than $120k.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    over 6 years ago

    very interesting

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